Tuesday, November 1, 2016

The Blankets Have Accepted Me

I have always been very high-functioning. Even in my worst depressions I get up at the crack of dawn, run 6 miles, go to work, clean the house, work on some of my crafty projects, and snuggle my cats. That's a lazy day. 

Lately, it's taken everything in my power just to drag my ass out of bed. I will lay there for hours, curled under the blankets, unable to even turn over so my arm regains feeling. 

I'm always so exhausted. I have no motivation. I feel like I have absolutely no purpose in life. Even my memory is suffering lately. 

Everyone has ups and downs along the road to mental health - which is a lifelong journey, not a single destination - but damn, this is one fork in the road I have not experienced before. 

My highly scientific research into the matter, which has included googling "Why am I so exhausted all of the time" has basically told me it's either anemia or depression as all of the other suggestions are not medically probable. Shocker.  

There's a chance I may be mildly anemic. I'm vegetarian so I routinely lack enough iron in my diet, but that's nothing new. 

The feelings of utter hopelessness and thoughts that should-I-kill-myself-my-cat-would-be-distraught-and-not-understand-why-I-abandoned-him being the only thing keeping me alive... leads me to believe my depression is worse then usual. 

A clue! 

Now to fix it. That's always the hard part isn't it. Outline a plan. I can at least do that. 

I need to find a different primary job. The president of my company is an abusive douche nozzle that doesn't mind yelling at his employees and berating them publicly. Plus the sexism that permeates that place is all too casual. Morale there is dismal. 

Eat better. I took a second job working for a friend of mine to help pay for my mother's medical bills. I never remember to bring decent food with me and all they have there is junk, which we are allowed to consume for free. Bonus: I discovered I'm allergic to diet soda. I need to start making big crock pots of food at the beginning of the week so I can just load up and have something to take with me that's healthy. 

Exercise more/more effectively. I am currently working out. I'm even managing to run. Yesterday I did 4 miles on the treadmill. Plus an ab workout. Plus some weight training. It's nowhere near the caliber of work out that I used to do though. It's my mindset. I'm having an extremely difficult time pushing myself, motivating myself. But I do keep trying. 

Vitamins. Daily multi-vitamin. B-complex. Iron. Lots of water. 

Alcohol. Drink less of it.   

Well, there it is. That's a workable plan. Now let's see how well I implement it. 

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Why Do We Take Things So Personally?

I’ve been looking in to tricks and techniques to help not takes things so personally. As I’ve been doing this I’ve noticed a couple things. One school of thought tells you to focus on the problem being the other person’s problem and to disengage yourself from it. The other school of thought acknowledges that other people’s words may have hit an inner wound and why we have a difficult time seeing past our own perspective in times of vulnerability. So which is correct? It probably depends on the situation.

I am interested in why I take things so personally, though.

An article from Psychology Today states that during infancy and early childhood, we experience the world as revolving around us. The Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget, a pioneer in developmental psychology, showed that a young child looking at a picture believes that an adult on the other side of the table sees exactly what he sees (even though the adult actually sees the picture reversed). When the picture is turned so that it is right side up for the adult and reversed for him, the youngster continues to believe that they are both seeing the same image. Part of our intellectual and psychological growth includes the gradual understanding that we do not always see the same thing as someone else. In Piaget's experiments, older children had the ability to imagine what the person on the opposite side of the table was seeing.

Current research believes that the capacity to respond to another person's feelings does develop very early. However being able to respond to another person’s feelings and being able to accurately interpret and separate yourself from those feelings are not the same things, or easy for that matter. The ability to distinguish your own feelings + determine how they came about AND figure out the feelings of someone else + how they originate + effect that person + yourself can be much more complicated. “It takes much longer for us to be able to separate our own experience from someone else's; and sometimes, especially in moments of vulnerability, this distinction can get lost.”

It may not even be that you can’t separate another person’s experiences from your own, but that you can’t separate the emotions triggered by those experiences that speaking to others may bring up. Regardless, that’s when we take things personally, even though something is actually about the other person, not us.

Intuitively I feel this has similar complications with the lack of object constancy or object permanence. Part of our early psychological growth is supposed to allow us to understand that when something/one leaves temporarily that they do not actually disappear permanently. Because we cannot see them within our own perspective does not mean that their perspective no longer exists. By extension, because we are in a very emotional and vulnerable place, where our emotions are a self-centered focus that does not mean that the perspective of someone else no longer exists because we cannot see past our own state of mind.  However because we’re in a highly vulnerable place that focuses inward, instead of outward, it’s difficult to remember that things don’t only act upon us; they act upon others, we interact together, and sometimes things don’t involve us at all (even if it feels like they do).

Interestingly, both of these developmental phases should coincide with one another. Object constancy/permanence is supposed to be developed by 2 years of age. This is the same age range we should begin responding to other people’s emotions in a more fully developed manner. I wonder if an insufficient emotional development early on, an emotional regression from trauma/ abuse, or both, enhances this response.  It would make sense.

It’s hard to admit that my emotional responses, even maturity, isn’t always appropriate, but acknowledging it is the first step to fixing it. It’s not enough to say, well see there, that’s the problem, I was born with it or something happened to me, it’s

not my fault. That may be true. But that doesn’t mean we can’t do something to make it better going forward. We can. And we should always try to make things better. My life is in my hands. I can make a difference. 

You can too. 

Monday, February 8, 2016

Personal Insight: When Not To Invest

This may not be the job I want. I feel like I’m losing my engineering skills by not being able to do the engineering drawing or FEA that I specialized in at University and used for years at my previous jobs. Or even doing hands on work directly in the field like I feel an engineer should. I feel under appreciated and like nothing I do here is good enough. Like everything I do is generally brushed off, what I say isn’t taken as relevant, and my skills don’t matter.

I’m not sure anything I do makes a difference here.

This has always been incredibly important to me. Making a difference. Maybe I should worry about this less. I’ll take the time I have to advance myself as much as I can and try to remove my personal needs from what I can expect from this job. Accept that this isn’t a place that I can advance how I’d like.

Do as best as possible, earn my money, so that I can enjoy the rest of my life elsewhere. There’s a whole world that I can enjoy that isn’t the 9-10 hours that I work a day.

I tend to emotionally invest myself in everything I do. I need to stop emotionally investing in this job. My self-worth should not be dependent on this place that isn’t allowing me to accomplish the goals & expectations I want to achieve.

I don’t even realize I’m doing it.  It wasn’t as difficult at previous jobs. I had a distinct separation of work personality and home personality. A very clear delineation. I left home at the door and my personality cut off.  

With therapy I’ve worked to stop disassociating. Reincorporating myself into every moment. Sometimes it sucks. This job is actively friendlier than past jobs. My boss specifically hires people based on their personality (and skills) to create a friendly environment. I’ve never been so social with coworkers. I could never maintain a strict, completely leave your personal life/personality at the door policy here. It would be seen as cold and rude. That doesn’t mean I don’t tell anyone anything about me that’s personal. Not at all. Just the things that make me relatable (my geeky hobbies, my love of Star Wars, my obsession with 80’s movies especially bad b-horror – stuff like that). But all of that stuff is part of who I am, it makes it harder to distance myself from this place, makes it harder to shield myself from the disappointment that comes with not living up to what I had hoped this job would be. Or take every perceived criticism to heart.

Not every job can be a dream job. There are billions of people in the world that simply go to work and get paid so they can pay their bills and do other things. Maybe that’s all this job is.

I can invest my time, and my effort, but not myself. Not everything deserves a part of me. There’s something to be said about cultivating impersonal detachment. Which is not the same thing as involuntary disassociation.

I’m sensing a theme lately. Taking things too personally. Letting things affect me too much. Correction, letting the wrong things affect me too much. I should look more into how to work on this…

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Try Not To Take Things So Personally

Sometimes it’s hard. We only have our own eyes to see through. We only have our own perspective to judge things from. We only have our own experiences to actually relate to. That’s not to say we shouldn’t emphatically try to relate to the experiences of others (but don’t let it overwhelm you, and know when to step away!).

Every once in a while I have an argument with someone, or simply say or do something that needs to be discussed. Discussing problems, I’ve found, is much more productive then arguing. That doesn’t mean it’s easy. Especially if I’ve done something, even inadvertently, that hurts or irritates someone else.

I can take things so personally. In a fairly self-centered way I think things are often about me or directed toward me. Never in a good way though. Always in a negative way, a criticism, or a way that threatens my self-esteem. In a way that makes me believe I’ve done something wrong or makes me feel as though I have that is completely out of proportion and detrimental to the situation I’m in. Even when discussing a problem that you may have caused or been involved in, not every single thing is about you, you know?

It’s hard listening to other people’s feelings sometimes. Especially when another person’s words and feelings can trigger your own insecurities or feelings of inadequacy. It’s important to be able to listen to their words though, and recognize:
  • what they are actually saying
  • how it applies to them
  • how it applies to the situation
  • then how it applies to you – if it does at all –
  • determine if they’re actually aiming to hurt you
  • or if your triggers are pulling more meaning from their words than there actually are

It’s very difficult for me to hear that the way I reacted to something effects someone in a certain way without immediately berating myself and feeling like a failure or like they’re trying to tell me I’m worthless. It’s very rare (now) that someone actually berates me or tells me I’m worthless. I think because something I may have said or done is creating a negative response in that person, which they in turn are telling me about, it causes me to feel guilty, like I let them down, and therefore someone who isn’t worthy of their love or attention – worthless. The accompanying depression and anxiety are not fun.

Anytime you talk to another person, are friends with someone, or are actually involved romantically – that is a relationship – regardless of how brief or long term. You effect the other person just as the other person affects you.

It’s important to keep an open mind concerning feedback from others, especially if you’re trying to resolve a problem. Remember that if you’re both actively trying to resolve a problem, then you both think the other person is worth the effort to work through the issue. Otherwise there would be no point.

Not everybody is a wordsmith. Sometimes people get the words wrong, but the intent is right. I can be literal to fault. This is a flaw of mine. I tend to say exactly what I mean, exactly how I mean it, and I’m meticulous about it. Other people aren’t like this.  People are symbolic, metaphoric, or just not great at picking the words they mean. It’s important to take a breath and ask for elaboration instead of jumping on something that sounds bad, feels hurtful, or simply isn’t what you want to hear (and sometimes you will hear things you don’t want to hear). The important thing is to ensure that you understand what they actually mean, not just the words they use to say it. Communication is key.

Try to keep in mind what feelings you may also be imposing on their words that make them feel more hurtful than they actually are. This is the hard part for me. I grew up with a father who reinforced that nothing I ever did was good enough. After a couple decades of that, I’m not sure I’ll ever believe I’m good enough. And enough abusive relationships that were verballing, mentally, and emotionally degrading, not to mention humiliating – it’s almost easier to impose those feelings onto a perceived negative situation.

Confronting problems is not negative. Discussing problems, even if they’re something you did, is not necessarily a negative. It’s a means to grow the relationship you have with that person and ensure that what you have flourishes in the long term. My therapist used to say that people that never argued were often in more trouble than people that do (this has a diminishing return – if you only argue, all the time - that’s not healthy either).

Things to remember:
  • Take responsibility for yourself
  • Do not place blame
  • State the problem
  • Do not argue over fault (blame)
  • Acknowledge how each other feel and why – especially if something was triggering
  • Find a solution
    • What caused the problem and how can we approach the situation differently in the future
    • How can we act differently so this doesn’t happen again

Above all, listen to what each other have to say, and try not to personalize things that the other person does not intend to direct at you. Try to recognize when your own feelings may be triggered and trying to latch onto the situation. This will help make difficult conversations a little easier to manage. I know I’ve needed that. 
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